Practical Ecommerce

Ecommerce Facebook Applications — a company that less than a year ago looked like fools for not accepting Yahoo’s bid to purchase it — has become the powerhouse of social media websites. It’s been said that much of the success is due simply to Facebook being the latest in a string of recently-hip online socialization sites, with MySpace being the last destination to peek out and then slow as the “true hipsters” move on, drawing the semi-hip behind them. A large part of that rise, however, has been Facebook’s open source policy with regard to the creation of Facebook applications. The result has been twofold: A huge demand for fun and informative applications and the corresponding, explosive proliferation of applications created for the site.

What’s an “app?”

A Facebook application (or “app” for short) is simply a small program that can be placed on a user’s site to lend some form of added functionality to the generic interface. Applications are popular because individual users can customize pages to their needs and desires. One of the more interesting recent apps, for example, is the Zombies app wherein users bite their friends, who then also become zombies if, of course, they add the app to their page. It’s fun, simple, viral and monetized by horror movie advertisements in the app interface.

Ecommerce sites have had varying degrees of success with these applications, correlated directly to how useful or fun the apps are. These small programs need to have viral attributes — those hard-to-define qualities that make users want to add the app to their page and share it with their friends. has created the “Blue Nile Wish List” app, which keeps friends informed about what jewelry an individual would like to purchase (or have gifted!) from the site. has created the “Garage Sale” app, which ties the sale of used merchandise into their system. Rather than use branded elements, the interface looks like a generic garage sale sign easily purchased at any hardware store, and the connection to isn’t immediately apparent. It’s just a little ol’ online rummage sale! And therein lies its charm.

How to create an app

So, what exactly does it take to create a Facebook app? A knowledgeable programmer is one way (and they really need to know the Facebook coding parameters), and if you have one available to you it shouldn’t be a time-consuming project. Short of a good programmer, there are services like This company’s software can take just about anything — a small Flash program, animated gif, or even a static graphic — and wrap the proper code around it to make it a Facebook-ready application. And, their basic services are free. If multiple apps are in your future, consider their paid programs.

Creating an application that goes viral, of course, is the key and the hardest part. One tool many application developers are referencing is, a site that tracks Facebook apps like a stock market. At the site, all the hottest apps are listed with many statistics about their growth popularity including graphs on daily active users, total number of users, ranking, related applications and links to the apps themselves. It makes for an ideal Facebook application research tool; identifying trends in either the design or concept of these apps allows both marketing departments and app developers to spot certain successful elements that can be applied to their own applications.

Creating a Facebook app doesn’t have to be expensive or intensive, and ecommerce sites would be remiss not to create at least one. Facebook makes it very easy to get an app up on its site because it wants as many apps as possible. Creating one that will be popular and go viral is the challenge for everyone, but there are research tools to help in that regard. If you don’t have the staff to develop an application from the ground up, there are white label opportunities out there that will take even a remedial design and wrap it in the code needed to get it live. My advice: Come up with your viral angle, keep it simple and put it together!

Jeff Muendel

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter

Get the Practical Ecommerce RSS feed

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Legacy User November 9, 2007 Reply

    Facebookster – We can provide a full range of facebook application strategy, design, development and marketing for your business. Our service offerings will allow you to maximize and leverage the facebook social graph of 32+ Million users.

    We have been providing new media strategy, consulting and development for Fortune 100 Clients & Start-ups for several years. Our team of consultants, project managers and programmers are intimately familiar with the DNA of facebook and how to build an application that meets your business requirements. or

    — *facebookster*

  2. Legacy User November 9, 2007 Reply

    OpenSocial Factory – Where social networking applicatios come to life!
    Are you in need of a custom Facebook application or an OpenSocial application for social network? We are happy to build even the most robust applications to help promote your company in the realm of social media across any social network.
    Visit now: or

    — *OpenSocial Factory*

  3. toucancart October 20, 2009 Reply

    Toucancart is the first full ecommerce app for Facebook. as well as a standalone shopping cart with many of the Facebook functions uncluding post to wall and invite friends etc it can also integrate with non Facebook stores.